Best Neighborhood Saint 

Joseph Charles Sr., aka the Waving Man

If Joseph Charles could have attended his own funeral, he'd have put on his biggest smile and waved like mad to the two hundred or so folks, many of them complete strangers, who showed up to honor the world-famous Waving Man. A retired longshoreman who moved out from Louisiana to work in the Richmond shipyards during WWII, he was a simple guy who simply made people feel good. His beloved tradition started out as a ritual morning wave with a neighbor, but before long Charles was standing on the curb by his home at Oregon Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, flashing that infectious grin and waving to passing drivers. "Keep on smiling," he'd call. In the mid-'60s, a motorist fan gave him a pair of bright yellow gloves that became part of his morning greetings. The man kept on waving and smiling at strangers for thirty years. Some thought he was crazy. Others would honk and wave back and arrive at work in a good mood. But the Waving Man's legacy outlasts him. Even now, when people pass his house, and think of Charles out there, just doing what he did because he so enjoyed it, they smile all over again. Just as he would have wanted.


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